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Bill Straub: Standing ready to protect Constitution, John Yarmuth stands out in congressional delegation

Rep. John Yarmuth has to be one of the loneliest guys in the nation’s capital.

Since he was elected to represent the Third Congressional District, which includes the city of Louisville, in 2006, Yarmuth has served much of his tenure as the lone Democrat in the sea of red that constitutes Kentucky’s congressional delegation.

When former Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, lost his re-election bid to Rep. Andy “Empty Suit’’ Barr, R-Lexington, in 2012, Yarmuth became the only Democrat among the Commonwealth’s six House members and two senators.

Ironically, Yarmuth himself started out as a Republican, going so far as to work as an aide to former Sen. Marlow Cook, R-Louisville, before switching parties in 1985.

He hooked up with Cook, a moderate by most measures, the year after another member of the current delegation, Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, of Moscow…rather, Louisville, left to seek his fortune elsewhere.

John Yarmuth

Next to McConnell, Yarmuth has risen to become Kentucky’s most powerful official in Washington, assuming the chairmanship of the influential House Budget Committee when Democrats assumed control of the lower chamber earlier this year. He is a member of more congressional caucuses than can be counted on one’s fingers and toes, including the Progressive Caucus, which pushes a liberal agenda, a factor that propels him even further to the left from other members of a delegation who constantly seek to out-Neanderthal one another.

But the main point here is that Yarmuth is the only representative from the Commonwealth who has called for the impeachment of President Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius (ESG), who, by the way, is displaying less and less stability by the nanosecond.

Yarmuth didn’t wait long to begin the process of giving our boy ESG the old heave-ho. In November 2017, a mere 11 months after the president mortified the nation and the world by taking the oath of office, Yarmuth was one of six House members to introduce articles of impeachment. Back in March, he told CNN during an interview that the effort to oust is looming.

“To me, it’s not a question of ‘whether,’ it’s a question of ‘when,'” he said. “And probably right now is not the right time, but I think at some point it’s going to be inevitable.”

Regardless, the inevitable in Yarmuth’s mind has still not arrived. The House Judiciary Committee has initiated formal proceedings but the effort has not yet received the blessing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who is on record opposing impeachment, asserting it would prove “so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.”

She added, “He’s just not worth it.”

Yarmuth said at this stage there’s an even more compelling reason to play it cool, telling The Courier Journal the votes aren’t there to see it through.

“I don’t believe there is any chance that we can remove him from office at this point based on what we now know,” he said. “But two things are going on among Democrats: responding to constituents saying, ‘He’s got to go’ and secondly the obligation to protect the Constitution, which is first and foremost.”

But support is growing. According to CNN, 134 of the 235 House Democrats support an impeachment inquiry. ESG’s popularity has dipped to about 38 percent in recent polls and in a profession that stands by the adage “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging,” ESG is well on his way to China and keeps moving dirt by the shovelful.

Let’s be clear: Despite the backing of millions who would support him, as the president has noted, even if he was found to have gunned down someone on the streets of New York, our Extremely Stable Genius has provided ample fodder to sack him, and the elements don’t even have anything to do with the easily provable evidence of his overt racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia and just about every other malevolent characteristic one might consider.

It will take more than just determining, as Hank Hill might say, that boy ain’t right. And the House Judiciary Committee is starting to piece together a case.

Impeachment is and should be the move of last resort. It has only been used in this theater twice, against President Andrew Johnson, essentially for being a putz, and a drunken one at that, and President Bill Clinton, who famously lied under oath about a heing-and-sheing incident that did not involve his wife. President Richard Nixon, the most disreputable chief executive until ESG challenged him for the title, resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal before lawmakers could kick him out.

The question is whether ESG can be determined to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” as stated in the Constitution. That’s a rather ambiguous standard.

Johnson, for instance, got in Dutch for firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a Radical Republican, against the wishes of the House and Senate. It was close but Johnson lived to treat the office as his own personal saloon for another day.

If ESG was to be impeached for firing individuals he would have been gone long ago.

Claims against him are more consequential. There are already four impeachment resolutions before the 116th Congress and it’s likely more are to come.

The most likely charge regards obstruction of justice. Without getting to far into the high grass, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as we all know, was called on to investigate whether ESG “colluded’’ with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election. Mueller couldn’t find sufficient evidence to make that rap hold. But he was strangely ambiguous when it came to our boy implementing barriers to throw off the investigation.

By almost any standard, a reading of the Mueller report reveals, the president attempted to obstruct justice, which is an impeachable offense in anyone’s book. It likely will emerge as the primary subject of the investigation undertaken by the House Judiciary Committee.

Then there is the claim that ESG is simply corrupt, using the resources of the United States government to further enrich himself, his family and friends, although there appear to be very, very few individuals who qualify in the latter category.

A lot of this has to do with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives. ESG is making hay from foreign governments utilizing various properties he owns, like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.

There is a new report about Air Force crews staying overnight at the president’s Turnberry resort in Scotland, which would seem to be an obvious conflict of interest that is sure to attract attention. And, of course, there is the family separation policy at the southern border, where the president has seemingly lost all sense of reason, that has resulted in numerous families hoping to enter the United States losing their children.

Regardless, the bottom line is Donald Trump is unfit to hold the high office of president of the United States. He is a menace and at times seems to be losing it, which makes his possession of the nuclear code nerve inducing.

Even if the House votes articles of impeachment and a trial is held, the likelihood that the Republican-controlled Senate will convict is practically nil. Ultimately the decision will have to be made at the ballot box.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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